ONLY one of the four teachers due to leave Hawick High School in May under a voluntary severance arrangement will be replaced, according to a member of the school’s parent council.
Vivian Bannerman believes staff feel beleaguered and morale is at rock bottom as efficiency savings are rolled out across Borders schools.
Mrs Bannerman contacted TheSouthern after attending a meeting of her parent council last week. She said throughout her four years on that body, the main points on the agenda had concerned making savings in education budgets.
“There is now no fat left to be trimmed and the cuts are impacting directly on the number of teachers. I cannot stand back and allow these cuts affect the education of our children and grandchildren without passing comment. It is affecting pupils now.”
Mrs Bannerman revealed that in November last year, the parent council sent a letter, signed by 15 teachers, to Councillor Neil Calvert in his capacity as chairman of Scottish Borders Council’s administration budget working group ahead of the council setting its budget for 2011/12.
“We trust you will understand more and more is being asked of our beleaguered teachers yet less and less in real terms is being spent on education by SBC,” they wrote. “Cuts of any signficance cannot be tolerated in education ... you should be in no doubt that pupils’ education will continue to suffer, at an even greater rate than before, by every decimal point of a percentage you cut the education budget compared to last year.
“Not only are our teachers’ jobs and morale severely under threat ... but the future of thousands of children, and their opportunity to be educated rests with you.”
In the event, SBC approved a £2.05million cut in education spending in February and, according to Mrs Bannerman, Mr Calvert had earlier indicated he had not noticed any problems with morale among teaching staff.
The Hawick Parent Council heard last week that a large number of experienced teachers had been lost, first to the Transforming Children’s Services review, and now through voluntary severance with teachers in biology, home economics, English and music leaving in May. Because of efficiency savings, only one of these will be replaced. Where staffing vacancies existed, the posts would most likely be filled by newly or recently qualified teachers and that, below depute head teacher level, all appointments would be temporary.
“In 2006, Hawick High had 82 teachers,” said Mrs Bannerman. “By the end of this year that figure will have fallen to 72. In the same time the school roll has reduced by the equivalent of just one teacher. So we have a shortfall of nine teachers.
“In the core subjects of maths and English, class sizes for the first two years are held at 20, but this will no longer be possible and they are set to increase to 26 or 27. Subjects on the fringes of the curriculum, like Spanish, will simply not be available and advanced Higher subjects will be limited.
“These cuts are affecting all schools in the Borders, but teachers are prohibited from speaking out. How can we stand back and let our state education system be eroded in this way?
“When mill workers face redundancies, does it not affect their morale? Teachers are no different, but they have the added burden of knowing a shortfall in education will impact directly on the future of their pupils. Children will fail to reach their potential. We cannot let this happen unchallenged.”
SBC education director Glenn Rodger denied any gagging policy in relation to staff.
“We do, however, have appropriate channels whereby staff can voice any concerns they may have,” he told us.
“Arrangements for the replacement of posts filled by staff taking voluntary severance cannot be confirmed at this stage because staffing and budgets have not yet been finalised.
“It is widely known we are faced with considerable financial challenges along with the rest of the country and we have been reviewing all our services to ensure we are able to sustain a high level of service while meeting the needs of all our children, young people and their families.
“These reviews have included putting in place new structures in all our schools ... and we understand this has been a very difficult time. However, looking at how we can embrace new ways of working has been essential to ensure we can continue to meet the needs of our pupils.
“We are confident any appointments to teaching posts in any of our schools will attract existing talent within SBC and this will avoid any compulsory redundancies.
“We will continue to offer opportunities for newly qualified teachers to work in our schools and we are fully supportive of this.”